Studio Session: Frankie P Crafts the Beats to Some of Your Favorite Songs From A$AP Ferg
After upwards of a decade spent searching for a sound to call its own, the New York City rap scene has blossomed in recent years, with a new generation of beatsmiths helping to cultivate boom-bap-inspired backdrops with a modern twist. Borrowing from the trap sound that has helped make the South the current epicenter of hip-hop and spinning it with the trusty tools of the trade of their predecessors, producers hailing from The Big Apple have found themselves back in high-demand and assisting the current crop of spitters breaking out of the confines of the five boroughs. One of these boardsmen, Frankie P, has emerged as one of the city's more lauded producers, with a sound that matches the vibe of the very streets he was raised on.
A native of the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, Frankie P, 30, is very much in tune with his native habitat, a familiarity which has informed his artistry from day one. "You know what's crazy, sometimes I battle against sirens with my sound," Frankie P tells XXL while explaining how Washington Heights has impacted how he approaches the craft of production. "I'm trying to make a beat and all I hear is firetrucks swinging by and I'm like, Aight, if this shit is knocking through the fucking fire truck, I'm good. No matter where we go, this shit gon' hit, you know what I'm saying? It definitely molds the sound."
After years of grinding behind the scenes and a short-lived stint in television, Frankie P found traction in the world of hip-hop after linking up with A$AP Ferg and helping the A$AP Mob member construct his debut album, Trap Lord, as well as his current mixtape, Still Striving.
Since then, Frankie P's star continues to rise, with heavyweights like Meek Mill, Cam'ron, Madeintyo, Onyx, B-Real and Famous Dex all having laid vocals on his productions. And with placements like "Rubber Band Man" and "One Night Savage" on A$AP Ferg's latest release, Still Striving, Frankie P is primed to find himself on the top of rappers' producer wish lists sooner than later.
Frankie P stopped by the XXL office to discuss his inspirations as a producer, his kinship with A$AP Mob, taking ownership of your artistry and brand, and much more.
XXL: How did you first get into hip-hop as a fan?
Frankie P: What I can remember, from the earliest, just me becoming a fan of the music was just me literally being at my grandmothers crib and watching BET and watching all of the videos and just kinda, like, taking all that shit in. So that's when I kinda got introduced to everything and the lifestyle and all that. But production-wise, when the Clipse Lord Willin' album came out, that was like, Aight, this shit is something I wanna take serious.
What was the first beat that blew your mind?
"Grindin'," bro. "Grindin'" was so different. The simplicity of it was the craziest part because there's three sounds in that shit, but everything serves its' purpose and it hits. And then when you pay attention to what the Clipse was saying on that shit, they was talking some real dirty shit. So it was kinda like the perfect balance to everything. So definitely "Grindin'," that was one of them.
Who are some of the producers that influenced you?
Just being from New York, you're always gonna be introduced to that home-based sound first so definitely The Alchemist. Premier's stuff. I wasn't into specific producers early on, I was just more into projects. So the Reasonable Doubts the Illmatics, the Stillmatics and the Life After Deaths; all of that sonically was molding me into what I was gonna be in the future. But definitely Timbaland as well. Pharrell's early shit. You know, just the legends, like everybody else.
How would you describe your sound?
It's a modern-day New York bounce. So I like to take what you traditionally hear in classic New York Hip-Hop and then fuse that with 808s and drums and hi-hat rolls and stuff like that. So I guess an updated New York bounce. And just real aggressive, real eerie. I like sounds that sound edgy so if it's too safe I probably won't like it. I like stuff that's unconventional.
What equipment do you use?
My mans put Fruity Loop on my computer in, like, ninth, tenth grade, so I started on FL. It must've been FL 7 or 5 back then, like early. Then after that, I got a little bread and I copped an MPC 1000. That's the blue one joint, the small shit so I used to work on that. But the problem with that was at that time you had to load up all your sounds, so you kinda lose your creativity as you go and it's not as fast as when you're on the computer and you have your sound bank on the left-hand side and you're just rocking out.
So I learned how to craft beats on the MPC but then I went back to FL just cause of the workload and it was just much easier. And I'm currently on FL now so that's like my bread and butter, I can everything in there and then transport out to whatever I have to do.
What was your first big break as a producer?
I mean, from a major label perspective, and a lot of people don't know this, but I did four songs on [A$AP Ferg's] Trap Lord. So I did "4:02," "Didn't Wanna Do That." I did "Fuck Out My Face" with Onyx and B-Real and Aston Matthews and "Make a Scene." And then before that, I did "40 Below" which was another record that I did for Ferg too. So I guess that first wave of Ferg records kind've got people paying attention, but before that I was working with a lot of artists coming up in the hood, I had songs on radio, I did a TV show with MTV, so some people knew what it was, but to the world, they started getting introduced on the Trap Lord album.
You mentioned a TV show, what was that about? What was the premise and the story behind that?
My mans actually put that show together, my boy Audubon, shout out to him. It was really just a show showing the grind of people Uptown and I respect it a lot because he really created the show and they brought it from us so it was a real power play. It wasn't received as well just because we was trying to push some positive shit, but at the end of the day we got our bread and we made a mark, you know what I'm saying, and that was important. And then that introduced people to my music too, like, I had my music synced with that as well, so that kinda got my foot in the door too as far licensing and all of that.
What was the show called?
The show was called Washington Heights. I was in the cut [laughs]. There was some studio scenes I was around, but I wasn't an actual cast member. So I was just in, like, certain scenes and then I handled a lot of the music stuff as well.
Speaking of Washington Heights, how would you say your neighborhood, and New York City as a whole, has influenced and informed your sound and the way you make music?
The city gives you a sense of hustle right, and Kirk Knight said some real shit, he was like, "Yo, you don't hear ice cream trucks no more, you just hear sirens. All you hear is sirens and people screaming and people talking loud." Like, I live in the Heights so it's just Spanish people yelling, somebody selling fucking ice cream outside. It's a hustle, everybody's hustling, so it's like even if you don't do it on purpose, that becomes part of your environment and that becomes part of how you move. Like niggas got ADHD. You can't stay still, it's just something always going on.
It definitely molds it a lot. And you know what's funny, just going off of people online, like I see people saying like, "Yo, I'm driving to this shit and I can't stop. It's making me go faster." That's how I feel. I'm constantly on the go, I'm constantly in studios. Like last night, we was in the studio til like 6:30 in the morning, so you hear that in the music. And then there's sometimes I have to go out to L.A. just to clear my head and just be able to focus on other shit because it's difficult for me. I can't even lie, to balance everything being in New York because there's always so much going on.
In what way would you say you've evolved the most as a producer?
I'm more aware of... as producers, right, you're always gonna feel like your last beat is your hardest shit. Like if I go in the studio, I'm probably gonna play the last three joints that are my favorite just because they're new. But what I'm learning as I go is that a lot of artists end up picking my old shit because I'm so mentally stuck on the new stuff, like, "Tango" is a beat I made two, three years ago, that's shit's in the cut for a long time.
And I don't send beats like that to Ferg because Ferg is known for his turn up, but those be the ones that he likes, those are the ones that cut through sonically because he's hearing 30 different trap beats when people are sending stuff through.
So I guess as a producer, I'm more selective of the beats that I send out, I know what certain artists like. You have to be aware of what the artist is doing, who they're working with and what their sonics are and what their bounce is. So it's more along the lines of fine-tuning my ear as opposed to making more beats. Just being more selective and being more strategic with who we place records with.
You've been working closely with A$AP Ferg for years. How did that relationship come about?
We met through some mutual friends back in the day. Before, Rocky and Ferg were in a group and they put out a song called "Get High," so around that time, that's when me and Ferg started working heavy, but the first time we met, we met in a spot Uptown in the Heights. He was with a shorty, I was with mine, we didn't speak about music. They were friends so they introduced us, he was designing at the time.
It was never nothing pressured and we just literally vibed. And he knew I produced, I knew who he was, I knew he did fashion and the music stuff so it was real organic, it wasn't forced. And then when Rocky started picking up, he noticed an opportunity there and then we really locked in. And he was coming to the crib. A lot of Trap Lord stuff was recorded in my house then sent out to get mixed and then we just started building from there.
You have a few credits on his Still Striving mixtape. What songs did you work on and how did those collaborations come about?
So I did "Trap and a Dream," "Rubber Band Man," "One Night Savage," "Coach Cartier" and "Tango." So "Tango" happened around December . He was still on tour with Future. He hit me in Houston on the FaceTime and he was playing it for me over the phone and at the time, I didn't stop making music, but I was focusing more on samples and just creating new samples to sell to people and that kinda re-inspired me to get back in the bag and work with him more.
So when he got off tour, that's when we really started going in. And were just having sessions in Quad [Studios]. He had Quad and the other studio booked for like two months and we would just be in there like every other night until about 4 or 5 in the morning.
Some nights we'd do two or three records, Migos would pop in, [Madein]Tyo would pop in, it was just constant people in and out of the studio and the energy was there. It was just like a special moment so everybody just wanted to be a part of it and experience it. So that was "Tango."
Then another special one for me was "Rubber Band Man," just ’cause I'm from the Heights and that's Cam'ron. I was fucking Jim Jones for Halloween one time so that was special to me alone. And then just being in the studio with Cam' and him being a humble dude and giving gems and game for no reason; he don't know me at all. And he respected me as a creative so just me growing up on his music and listening to Diplomatic Immunity, as fans, they raised us, real shit.
So just being a part of that is a blessing. That's enough for me to be like, Yo, I made my mark on this, you know what I'm saying? And then, besides that, what they did musically. Like Cam's verse is retarded. And there's more too. I don't know if y'all gonna hear ’em, but we ain't just do one joint.
And another dope session was "Coach Cartier." That was down in SoHo [in New York City] and the whole [A$AP] Mob was in there. Rich The Kid, Famous Dex, it was a lot of people in there, but there was a lot of energy in that room. We was just bouncing back and forth, it was just verses going on. Rocky did a verse that didn't end up on it, Rich The Kid had a verse on that, Marty Baller had a verse on that and it was just one of those things where it was just, like, a moment, you know, so that one was special. I made "Rubber Band Man" and "One Night Savage" back to back. So both of those beats I made together in one night, so I was inspired, bro.
Before then, I had took a trip to Dubai back in November and I came back really, just recharged. Just seeing other parts of the world and just what is capable to reach out to and just seeing different shit ’cause, like going back to the New York shit, when you're always in New York, this shit can get depressing. It's dark in the winter time, it's cold, trains, it's grey, noise. So leaving New York and being in a different space, when I came back, I was in a great mental space and it just so happened that we had started working again at that very moment. So it just all came together.
What is it about you and Ferg's chemistry that makes y'all mesh together so well?
I think we're just both workaholics and we're trying to outwork each other. Ferg seems like he's back in that space where it's like he's a new artist. He has that energy so I just kind of feed off of that. If he's like, "Yo, we're going in the studio and it's one in the morning," I'm gonna be there. You gotta take advantage of that energy and that moment because it might not be there tomorrow, you know what I'm saying?
Who are some of the artists that you're currently working with or have music with in the stash?
We did a joint with Ski Mask The Slump God, real dope artist. We got some stuff with the [A$AP] Mob, some stuff with [A$AP] Rocky. [A$AP] Ferg's album, which drops top of the year, we got a couple on that. We got album stuff in the stash that sounds more put together.
Who are some artists you're looking to work with moving foward?
I like what Westside Gunn and Conway are doing a lot. They're from Buffalo, I like their shit a lot. Dreamville got a dope roster, J.I.D., Ari Lennox, I like that whole squad. I love Rae Sremmurd too. Spoken to ’em a couple of times but nothing solidified yet. [A$AP] Na$t. Na$t got some joints in the stash that are, like, next level shit. And they feel like they were made in ’95, but they sound like today. So effortless and flawless and dirty as fuck so whenever that happens, that's gonna be a problem. But definitely Na$t.
Another artist is Slater from New York, he's dope. We have a song called "Pay Day" that's been making some noise. Different genres, Jorja Smith, a dope singer out of London. I'm Dominican and Ecuadorian so I do Spanish shit as well and there's a lot of cats coming from New York now that are really making noise and I'm sure you've heard of Lito and Tali and what they're doing is they're mixing hip-hop and Latin trap and reggae. It's a fusion of a lot of shit, but it's street and it's New York and it's Latin so it crosses over to the whole South America, but that shit comes from the streets of New York. They spitting some shit, and the plus is that they got the clubs too, the clubs are locked.
What would you say is your best studio session ever?
The best studio session was the Cam'ron session just ’cause Andre 3000 walked in. Regular shit, like, popped in. It was Andre 3000, Cam'ron, Ferg, me and a couple of the homies and that's bucket list right there. That was Quad, around December. That was a real special one. I think that might be it.
What would you say is the best advice a producer has ever given you?
It would have to be just kinda really knowing your worth because producers a lot of times don't get the credit they deserve. So once you understand your power and what you provide and what your bring to the table you'll know how to carry yourself and how to talk to people and how to build with people. And also, I think the best advice for producers in general is to really build your brand, focus on your brand.
You are a walking brand, so how are you gonna promote yourself. Like, aight, you got beats, everybody got beats, so now what? What else are you doing? ’Cause we're in a very competitive state so if you're not in people's faces, they're gonna forget about you fast. The majority of these artists ain't thinking about you, they're worried about themselves, so you should have the same mentality and really focus on your own brand and building your own empire.
And that doesn't mean just placing beats with artists. That means getting records on video games, that means good content, like, do a beat tape, work with artists you believe in. There's so many things you can do, it's not just making beats no more for artists, that game is over, you know what I'm saying. So really just build your brand.
How do you feel about the landscape of hip-hop production right now and do you have any gripes or issues concerning the game?
Sonically, I love what's happening. I gain a lot of inspiration from Atlanta. Like I love Mike Will [Made-It], I love Metro [Boomin], I love what they're doing sonically. And New York is also having its resurgence right now, so I feel like the combination of both of that, I feel like musically, we're in a great place. But just as far as media-wise and how it's presented to the world, I do feel producers need more credit.
Mainly more credit because without the producer, that's 50 percent of the song. Ain't nobody trying to hear an a cappella, and vise versa, ain't nobody just trying to hear the whole beat. So both parties need each other, so it's up to the artist to really put that light on the producer. And that's why I'm grateful for Ferg. He's made an effort to make it known that I produced these records and he don't have to do that. So it makes a difference.
Whats next for you in your career as a producer?
I'm really just open to art in general. So I don't limit myself to just music. We have video content placements going on, I'm focusing more on television and show content. I'm also working heavily on creating my own samples. There's definitely a lane for producers to make original content, which I'm a part of now. I have my own sample packs that producers can purchase at FrankiePMusic.com.
And then on the music end, I'm definitely getting more into Latin stuff and I'm constantly making beats. I'm at peace when I'm in the studio creating, that's my vacation, you know what I mean? So everything else is great, but I'm a studio rat, I'll just be in the studio making joints. Like, I love building with the artist. A lot of producers don't have the opportunity to be in the studio with the artist. The majority of what you heard on Still Striving, Ferg and I were in the room together and that's why it sounds like that, it makes a big difference. I hate emailing beats to people. I will come wherever you're at and we can build, but I hate sending beats all over.
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